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Visiting Australia | A Brief Guide

Travel Tips
Visiting Australia is an exciting prospect, especially for travelers who have never been there before. After all, there’s so much to see and do there and so many things to experience that most people have only heard about. 

There are also a number of things that visitors to Australia should know about before they get there. That way, maybe they won’t get sunburned, embarrassed, or have an unfortunate encounter with one of Australia’s many species of wild animals.

What to Expect: Entering the Country

Visitors to Australia will need either a visa for the country or an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization). Depending on where they are coming from, they will need to fulfill different rules regarding COVID-19. Australia has strict entry rules right now and most incoming travelers have to pay the government to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel.

Australia’s borders are quite strict, too. They may not allow visitors to bring in a number of food items, like meat, vegetables, fruit, plants, eggs, and seeds. Prescription medications may require written declaration by a doctor. Animal products that are not food are also forbidden, including skins, bones, feathers, and more.

What to Expect: Travel

Australia is a lot bigger than most travelers think it is. In fact, it’s about 75% the size of the United States. This means that most visitors will not get to see the whole country unless they plan to travel there for more than six months.

The size of the country and the fact that much of the interior is a desert means that getting around might take longer than expected, too. Traveling through the Outback often means long days spent without seeing many (if any!) other human beings.

Driving through the center of Australia takes careful planning. Travelers will want to make sure that they have access to a vehicle that can handle the trip they want to take. They will also want to be sure that they have a reliable route that contains, among other things, regular access to food, gas, and lodging.

Flying between cities is easier, but it still takes time. A single flight from the east coast of Australia to the west coast takes five-and-a-half hours! Taking the train is also an option. These are better for the planet and allow travelers to see the scenery without the stress of driving. Bus lines in the country also offer hop on/hop off passes. These allow travelers to ride multiple times without having to purchase a new ticket for each destination.

What to Expect: Lodging

There are a number of different types of accommodations in Australia, just like there are in most Western countries. Visitors can choose between luxurious hotels, vacation rentals, bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels, and more. If a traveler wants to find a certain type of accommodation in urban Australia, they should be able to do so.

In more rural areas, there will be a lot fewer choices when it comes to places to stay. Some small towns may only have a single hotel. If travelers plan to road trip through rural areas, they will want to make sure that they have adequate accommodations along the way.

Some visitors choose to rent a campervan and take it with them as they travel around the country. This can be a great way to combine travel and lodging together, though visitors will need to factor in the price of gas (which is higher in Australia than it is in some other countries). They will also need to make sure that they have a place to park their van every night.

What to Expect: Weather

Because Australia is so large, it experiences all sorts of weather. There’s no way to make one generic statement about Australian weather.

Travelers from the northern hemisphere should remember that the seasons are swapped in Australia. Their summer runs roughly December through March. However, Australian summers are significantly warmer than summers in most of North America and Europe. In fact, recent summers have been so hot that wildfires have raged through parts of the country. 

Similarly, some parts of Australia have received massive amounts of rain in recent years, while other parts even receive snow regularly in the winter. Travelers need to research the part of the country they are visiting and the time of year of their visit to know what weather to expect. 

Overall, fall and spring are the best times to visit Australia. This is roughly October and November, then April and May. Travelers who visit during these times have the best chance of hitting awesome weather.

What to Expect: Social

Australians are, overall, extremely friendly and love to talk. People from quieter countries might be surprised at just how often they are greeted or at how many conversations they end up having with strangers. Many Aussies have experience traveling, too, so they may want to hear about a visitor’s experiences while sharing their own.

If a traveler gets invited to a BBQ, and the locals are so friendly that they might, they should make sure they bring something to share. Acceptable dishes include a side dish, a salad, or drinks to share. Note that most informal Australian hangouts are BYOB, so visitors should make sure they bring something that they like to drink. 

Alcohol is a huge part of Australian culture. Any store selling it is referred to as a “Bottle-O”. Beer is the most common alcoholic beverage in Australia and craft beer is king. If travelers prefer wine, they can buy a “goon”, which is a 5-liter box of wine with a tap affixed for easy access.

Coffee is also important to many Australians. Visitors who don’t drink alcohol don’t need to worry, because they can bond with locals over caffeine, instead. Australia has many famous coffee houses and many of the people are coffee connoisseurs.

Australian Cultural Tips

There are a few things that travelers should know about Australian culture before they visit the country. 

  1. Australians speak English, but it’s not quite the same as English is in either the United States or the UK. While English speakers from other countries will be able to understand and be understood, they need to know that Aussies use some words differently. Australian slang is almost a whole language in and of itself, and the best way to learn it is to meet some locals and pay attention.

  2. Most Australians have a huge respect for Aboriginal culture. They honor these cultures before many meetings, ceremonies, and other events, to acknowledge that the native people were the original owners of the land they are now using. There are many museums and historical sites where travelers can learn even more about the original cultures of Australia.

  3. If travelers can, they should unlock their cell phone before arriving in Australia. If their carrier won’t let them unlock a phone for international travel, find out what they can offer for coverage in Australia. After all, no one wants to end up stuck beside the road somewhere without a way to call for help.

  4. That said, cell coverage can be spotty. While it’s fully functional in cities and other inhabited areas, the interior of Australia does not offer as much cell service as many travelers expect it to. They should be prepared to go without, or bring along the necessary equipment to boost their signal to get the service they need.

  5. Australians drive on the left side of the road, which will feel foreign to people from North America. If people from these countries want to drive, they will need to accustom themselves to this change. Traffic can be heavy in cities, so getting some practice in rural areas may be key before driving in city centers.

  6. Wear extra sunscreen. Australia has a much thinner layer of ozone over it than much of the world does, which makes the sun harsher there. Visitors will need to cover up or make sure they reapply their sunscreen regularly.

  7. People talk a lot about the dangerous wildlife in Australia, but visitors may not see many animals at all. A lot of the wildlife has moved toward the interior of the country as cities have built up on the coast. Because of this, they might not see animals unless they choose to drive outside of the cities. And as long as people are careful, they should be able to avoid anything dangerous, too.

  8. Smoking is expensive. If a traveler is a smoker, they should consider quitting before they go to Australia. Legislation means that a single package of cigarettes costs nearly $40. This is a lot more than it costs to smoke in most other places in the world.

  9. Swim flags are important. Because there are so many sharks in and around Australia’s waters, they put up sets of flags where it is safe to swim. Stay between the flags to stay safe. If they are not sure where to swim, it’s best to err on the side of staying out of the water, rather than risking a shark encounter.

  10. Australia is expensive. Most travelers will need to budget at least $100 (and up to $500) per visitor, per day. This includes accommodations, activities, and food in the country. Note that transportation is NOT included in this number, as it can cause costs to vary widely.

  11. Don’t tip in Australia. Service wages are higher in Australia than they are in much of the western world, which means that Aussies often don’t tip, especially for food or drink service. Most food and beverage places also include service charges as a line-item in the bill. If a traveler does choose to tip, they should base it on the specific service they receive, rather than on a set percentage.

  12. The emergency number in Australia is 000. Travelers can simply pick up a phone, dial Triple Zero, and get the help they need. They’ll be connected to the best department to handle their emergency (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) and responders should be on their way within just a few seconds.

Plan a Trip to Australia Now!

Many people have dreamed about visiting Australia. Now might be the perfect time to plan the trip of a lifetime. Following these guidelines, travelers should be able to get the most out of their trip to Australia. Before long, they will be enjoying all of the amazing things that Australia has to offer. They may not even want to go home!


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